The value be­yond the bling

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIVE THINGS -

VALUE

If you sub­scribe to the idea that the Mini is a pres­tige ve­hi­cle then the $43,900 Coun­try­man diesel wagon rep­re­sents great value. If you be­lieve the brand is a main­stream mar­que, it’s on the dearer side of the ledger. Most Mini buy­ers, be­ing in the first camp, have no prob­lems adding thou­sands to dress the car to mir­ror their style. Be­yond the bling, the Coun­try­man is im­pres­sively well-equipped with semi-au­to­mated park­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol, dig­i­tal ra­dio and power tail­gate. The light­ing pack­age projects a winged Mini logo on the ground when you open the door.

COM­FORT

For any­one who spent time in the back of the pre­vi­ous Coun­try­man, the new one is a rev­e­la­tion. Based on the same plat­form as the BMW X1, it has more than gen­er­ous rear head and legroom and boot ca­pac­ity is a re­spectable 450L. The ex­tra size fi­nally makes it a vi­able fam­ily car, a gen­uine SUVstyled Mini to take on the ev­er­ris­ing num­ber of crossovers.

SAFETY

Mini was crit­i­cised for not fit­ting a re­vers­ing cam­era to the pre­vi­ous Coun­try­man. Now ev­ery model has a rear pro­jec­tor, along with au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing and six airbags. It doesn’t have a crash-test rat­ing yet. By way of ref­er­ence, the X1 scored five stars.

DRIV­ING

Steer­ing feel and feed­back is a Mini strong point and the Coun­try­man doesn’t dis­ap­point. The Cooper D has plenty of torque and the trac­tion con­trol won’t stop it from spin­ning the wheels on take­off or when ac­cel­er­at­ing from low speeds. Once un­der way, it’s a great driver’s car. Out­ward vi­sion is great, chunky wind­screen pil­lars apart. The ride is on the firmer side — part of the brand ethos is a sporty drive — but rarely harsh. The $700 dy­namic damper op­tion is for those look­ing to mod­er­ate or in­crease com­pli­ance at the flick of a switch.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES BMW X1 diesel, from $49,900

Same chas­sis and en­gine mean the Beemer has sim­i­lar take­off is­sues to the Mini. It is also $6K dearer, so you’re putting a lot of faith in the blue-and-white roundel badge. If you re­gard the Mini as com­pa­ra­ble, it’s a bar­gain.

Audi Q2 TDI quat­tro, $47,900

All-wheel drive quells torques­teer off the line and the de­fault fea­tures pretty well mir­ror those on the Mini. At the price, it is a bet­ter propo­si­tion than the BMW. The big­ger Coun­try­man is more prac­ti­cal but the Audi looks and feels more lux­u­ri­ous.

VER­DICT

This gen­er­a­tion of the Coun­try­man is ev­i­dence Mini is grow­ing up and away from quirky niche prod­uct to a proper car com­pany. As long as you view it as a pres­tige item, it is hard to fault the value.

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